The Pursuit of Happiness: Unraveling the Truth Behind Our Obsession

Summary: From self-help books to social media influencers, the pursuit of happiness is everywhere. We’re bombarded with messages that suggest happiness is not only achievable but also mandatory for a fulfilling life. But is our obsession with being happy truly warranted? And what is the real truth behind this relentless pursuit?

Dear Dr. Sylvia,

I just had a procedure done to defeat skin cancer.

It was not a big deal and I am both relieved and happy.

However, the physician and I spent our time talking about the requirement in society to be happy all the time.

Of course, when I was told I needed a minimally invasive procedure to make sure the cancer was eliminated, I was NOT happy.

When I was told after the procedure that all was fine, I was happy.

At least for the time being.

I know you are in process of writing a book called “Glimmers to Greatness: Illuminating the Leaders Path.”

How do glimmers of what shows up for us combine with being happy?



The illusion of constant happiness is a trap

Dear Curious

First and foremost, it’s essential to recognize that happiness is not a constant state.

It’s fleeting and ephemeral, much like other emotions. Despite our best efforts, we cannot sustain happiness indefinitely.

Life is a rollercoaster of experiences, emotions, and challenges, and expecting to be happy all the time is unrealistic and, frankly, exhausting.

Think of it this way: you climb up the mountain and the view is amazing. You are happy. Very happy.

Then you go down from the mountain and slip and slide on a muddy area. You arrive at the bottom dirty and aching.

Most of us would be complaining and of course, the happiness left us half way down the steep incline.

The question is, why did the happiness leave because of some slippery mud?

The pressure to conform plays a role in how we view happiness

Social media plays a significant role in perpetuating the myth of constant happiness. Platforms like Instagram are flooded with carefully curated snapshots of people living seemingly perfect lives.

In fact, we compare ourselves to these polished images, feeling inadequate if our own lives don’t measure up. This pressure to conform to an idealized version of happiness only adds to our dissatisfaction and anxiety.

For example, we look at the greener grass our neighbors have cultivated. Why, we ask ourselves are we less skilled?

The myth of happiness is about who has the greener grass.

One day I saw this so clearly in my executive leadership program.

I was talking with a very well respected man, Kevin, who was telling me how miserable he felt. Numbers were down and several staff members were resigning.

“Why can’t I be like George, you know, the guy who has it all?

When I asked what “all” looked like, he got quiet.

“Well, George never has staff issues, he has great products, a great marriage, kids in prestigious colleges, and tons of money.”

What happened next was epic.

My next client, waiting to come into my office was… ta dah… George.

The two men shook hands in the waiting room and when George entered my office his first comment was “Why cant I be more like Kevin who has it all.”

It was rinse and repeat about what “all” looks, sounds, and feels like.

Embrace the Full Spectrum of Emotions

The truth is, happiness is just one facet of the human experience. Emotions like sadness, anger, and fear are equally important and valid.

Suppressing these emotions in favor of pursuing happiness can lead to emotional repression and mental health issues.

Instead of chasing an elusive state of perpetual happiness, we should strive for emotional authenticity. It’s okay to feel sad, angry, or anxious at times. These emotions serve as valuable signals, guiding us through life’s ups and downs.

By embracing the full spectrum of emotions, we can cultivate a deeper sense of self-awareness and resilience.

The pursuit of meaning is critical to happiness

Beyond the pursuit of happiness lies a more profound quest: the pursuit of meaning.

Psychologist Viktor Frankl famously wrote, “Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue from the pursuit of meaning and fulfillment.”

True fulfillment comes from living a purpose-driven life, one that aligns with our values and beliefs.

Finding meaning in our work, relationships, and contributions to society provides a sense of purpose that transcends fleeting moments of happiness. It gives our lives depth and richness, even during times of struggle or adversity.

Cultivate gratitude to gain contentment

While happiness may be transient, cultivating gratitude and contentment can foster a deeper sense of fulfillment.

Gratitude allows us to appreciate the abundance in our lives, shifting our focus from what we lack to what we have. Practicing mindfulness and living in the present moment can also enhance our overall sense of well-being.

Back to Kevin and George: they each had to learn to accept each situation at work and at home as exactly what was needed for their growth and development.

The key question to ask in all situations we encounter: Why me, Why now, Why this.

Our obsession with being happy is a reflection of our innate desire for fulfillment and satisfaction. However, the relentless pursuit of happiness often leads to disappointment and disillusionment.

Instead of chasing an unattainable ideal, we should embrace the full spectrum of human emotions and seek meaning in our lives.

True happiness arises not from external circumstances or material possessions but from within.

In conclusion, by cultivating gratitude, living authentically, and pursuing meaning, we can find fulfillment that transcends momentary happiness. So let’s shift our focus from chasing happiness to embracing the richness of the human experience in all its complexity.

To your success,

Sylvia Lafair

PS. Our yearning for “happiness” often leads to increased stress. Find out why in my book “Invisible Stress: It’s NOT What YOU Think.” for ways to find better balance in your life.

Creative Energy Options

Sylvia Lafair

Creative Energy Options